AT&T Does the Obvious Thing Its CEO Said It Wouldn’t Do and Restricts Its Valuable Media Properties

Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica:

WarnerMedia, the division AT&T created when it bought Time Warner, today announced a new online streaming service called “HBO Max.” HBO Max will debut in the spring of 2020 and include exclusives that will no longer be available on other streaming platforms.

HBO Max will have exclusive streaming rights to all episodes of Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Pretty Little Liars. Friends and Pretty Little Liars are currently available on Netflix, so they’ll both leave that service by the time HBO Max launches.


AT&T is making Time Warner shows exclusive to HBO Max even though it told government officials that it would continue to distribute Time Warner content as widely as possible.

Karl Bode, Techdirt:

On its surface this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. After all, Friends is an old show, and most users probably won’t care. And it’s certainly not the only show getting this treatment (Comcast NBC Universal just made The Office exclusive to its streaming platform, and Disney is also pulling Netflix content for exclusive use on its own looming Disney+ service). But more broadly, the more essential content AT&T makes exclusive to its own platform (especially and likely inevitably, HBO), the more difficult it will be to compete with AT&T. Knowing AT&T, there’s going to be far more exclusives where this came from.

This is all before you even get to net neutrality and AT&T’s domination in broadband, which has allowed it to behave anti-competitively in different, even more problematic ways (like only imposing arbitrary usage caps if you use a competitor’s service). Letting companies like Comcast NBC Universal and AT&T Time Warner dominate both the conduit and the content will ultimately result in a universe of headaches for competitors and consumers alike. And Judge Leon’s failure to see (or acknowledge) this will be a “gift” that keeps on giving for the next decade.

The gutless lack of enforcement of American antitrust laws is going to make everyone beg for the days of paying eighty bucks a month for a hundred cable channels you didn’t need so that you could get the six you actually wanted.

Update: The calculus here is that Friends is worth more than $100 million per year to AT&T for its HBO Max platform.